32 flavors and then some

In Automation on 31 August 09 by jimenez


If anything, it’s not the science that will scuttle automation, but the press releases.

Here’s the latest release – and the same old “warnings” about the “more than 30 vulnerable spots.”

A political analyst has warned that the Philippines may actually end up with an “automated disaster” in next year’s elections if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the consortium Smartmatic-TIM failed to install safeguards and security measures on more than 30 vulnerable spots of the automated election system (AES).

Prof. Bobby Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance claimed that they have identified at least 30 vulnerable spots in the AES, stressing the list is growing and may lead to a “disastrous” elections.

We have repeatedly asked for a list of these more than 30 – and growing … kinda like that ice cream with 32 flavors and then some – vulnerablities. In fact, in a recent letter (26 August 2009 actually) sent out by Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan, we formally reiterated this request.

More than a mere briefing, the Commission would appreciate a copy of your “19-page, 3-month policy study on the Automated Election System of the COMELEC,” together with the full documentation as per your claim of having the “first comprehensive study.” This should properly support your findings on the alleged “disturbing vulnerabilities in the AES.”

Still, CenPEG – perhaps with excellent media savvy – continues to flail away with its vague rumblings of impending doom.

“The system’s vulnerabilities make the whole AES fragile and prone to internal rigging, tampering, retail and wholesale cheating all over the country,” he noted.

Tuazon said the vulnerable spots were in place in the whole system from ballot printing, warehousing of the counting machines, hardware and software deficiencies, voting, counting, electronic transmission of votes to canvassing and proclamation of winners.

“The alarming list, however, does not include yet the weak spots in the infrastructure system such as telecommunications, phone and electric lines, and cell sites,” he stressed.

Other vulnerable spots are the lack of a source code review, possible lapses in the digital signature, possible unofficial access to the canvassing servers, and the lack of voter’s verifiability.

He said the review of the source code by independent ICT experts and other “interested parties,” which the election modernization law (Republic Act 9369) requires, can verify whether the counting and canvassing are done properly and no cheating is possible.

Tuazon added his group is airing this concern to prevent the same scenario that took place during the 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao when the Comelec failed to review the source codes in that poll exercise.

Now, inasmuch as I am quoting from what is presumably a press release, I imagine that Tuazon was merely mistaken when…

He also noted that the Comelec has yet to respond to CenPEG’s official request last May 26 to provide the source code for review.

… since on the 26th of August, the COMELEC did respond to him and various other consultants of CenPEG on precisely the issue of the source code.

Of course, if he wasn’t merely mistaken, then he was just lying.

Speaking of lying, do you know how internet hoaxes are identified? Among other things, investigators look for details that seem calculated to generate the most revulsion or fear. The “gross-out” factor, they call it. Incidentally, in this latest press release of CenPEG, the “freak-out” factor is slathered on a bit too thickly.

“The more than 30 vulnerable spots should even prompt the Philippine National Police to revise its list of six election hot spots. The infrastructure system may even be vulnerable to jamming, sabotage and other threats by some groups with the intent to cause a failure of election or manipulate election returns,” he stressed.

“Election hot spots” should not begin and end with the incidence of violence, Tuazon said.

“But in the 2010 automated poll, the whole country is an election hot spot,” he added.

If a place is violent enough to warrant being called an area of concern – the hotspot Tuazon’s referring to – I doubt that jammed up PCOS machines will be high on the list of police priorities. It betrays a sorry – especially so since CenPEG claims a pedigree of election monitoring – misunderstanding of how hotspots are identified and dealt with.

For one thing, with or without an automated system in place, areas of concern remain so because of their history, because of the political rivalries in that area, or because of that area’s location relative to on-going armed conflicts. There is absolutely no reason – apart from the desire to spread fear – to imagine that having a counting machine in a particular precinct will make that precinct more vulnerable to violence. That is arrant nonsense.

Tuazon also asked the Comelec “to stop spreading the illusion that with technology everything is A-OK and for Smartmatic-TIM to refrain from hyping about a ‘dream poll’ because both claims are unfounded.”

We’ll stop re-assuring the public maybe when you stop scaring them, Mr. Tuazon. I think that sounds fair. After all, when you talk about assurances being unfounded, one wonders what the basis for your fears are. It’s very clear that everything CenPEG has been harping on has been founded simply on what-if’s and could-be’s. Awesome basis for stampeding the people back into the arms of the flawed manual system.



14 Responses to “32 flavors and then some”

  1. […] Communication Technologies as of August 31, 2009 Author: PHILDARV – Categories: Qualifications 32 flavors and then some – 08/31/2009 Really. If anything, it’s not the science that will […]

  2. […] Spokesperson James Jimenez writes in his blog that the biggest threat to poll automation is not the science behind it but the negative press […]

  3. […] Asked Questions) – you can find an example of this in Paul Graham’s RAQ. I was browsing COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez’ blog post about the alleged vulnerability of AES, to quote: “…More than a mere briefing, the […]

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